In general, the best way to assure adequate protein is to include some animal protein in each meal. A glass of milk, a slice of cheese, some yogurt, or a small amount of meat, fish, or poultry will suffice. Many popular dishes such as macaroni and cheese, cereal and milk, spaghetti with meat sauce, or Chinese dishes made with a small amount of fish and a large amount of vegetables and rice are good choices.
In keeping with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, a number of nutrition experts recommend rethinking of protein selection, with greater emphasis on foods such as fish, poultry, low-fat milk products, and legumes. Although many of us have grown up with the idea of meat as the foremost protein food, we should remember that more than half the calories in almost all meats come from fat.
Economics are another consideration in choosing protein foods. Although some foods may seem to be money savers, large amounts of fats or fillers may make sausages, luncheon meats, cold cuts, or very fatty meats relatively high-priced protein per pound. Oversized portions of protein foods can also be wasteful, since extra protein calories are a costly form of bodily energy and, more important from a nutrition standpoint, excess dietary protein may in turn help create larger needs for calcium and other nutrients.
Here are two important reminders in choosing protein foods: foods should not be thought of in terms of a single nutrient, but in terms of their full contribution to the diet; the best way to get protein, and all other nutrients, is by eating a wide variety of healthful foods carefully selected from each of the Basic Four Food Groups.